The Blooming Desert

Scripture Focus: Psalm 63
1 You, God, are my God, 
earnestly I seek you; 
I thirst for you, 
my whole being longs for you, 
in a dry and parched land 
where there is no water. 
2 I have seen you in the sanctuary 
and beheld your power and your glory. 
3 Because your love is better than life, 
my lips will glorify you. 
4 I will praise you as long as I live, 
and in your name I will lift up my hands. 
5 I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; 
with singing lips my mouth will praise you. 
6 On my bed I remember you; 
I think of you through the watches of the night. 
7 Because you are my help, 
I sing in the shadow of your wings. 
8 I cling to you; 
your right hand upholds me. 
9 Those who want to kill me will be destroyed; 
they will go down to the depths of the earth. 
10 They will be given over to the sword 
and become food for jackals. 
11 But the king will rejoice in God; 
all who swear by God will glory in him, 
while the mouths of liars will be silenced.

Reflection: The Blooming Desert
By John Tillman

Cartoons I watched on lazy Saturdays had a familiar visual gag to depict hunger. Two companions would be stranded without food on a deserted island. Maddened by hunger, one would watch the other slowly turn into a delicious-looking ham or a turkey leg. Meanwhile, the other would watch their companion turn into a bucket of fried chicken. Soon they would chase each other around the island, but they were chasing an illusion.

David’s desert Psalm mentions things one might fantasize about in the desert or on a deserted island. He speaks of the richest of foods and of his thirst being quenched. David’s spiritual analogy may have been inspired by physical reality.

Spiritually, we live in a desert where there is no water. We walk in a land where no food grows.

Everything our culture says to drink causes thirst rather than quenches it. Everything our culture says to consume poisons health rather than promotes it. Our world is a spiritual food desert where the only food available is not true food at all. The impulses and instincts they call life-giving make us starved and shriveled devils.

“The most dangerous thing you can do is to take any one impulse of your own nature and set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs. There is not one of them which will not make us into devils if we set it up as an absolute guide. You might think love of humanity in general was safe, but it is not. If you leave out justice you will find yourself breaking agreements and faking evidence in trials “for the sake of humanity,” and become in the end a cruel and treacherous man.” — CS Lewis, Mere Christianity

Satisfying instinct leaves us unsatisfied. Filling physical desire leaves us unfulfilled. Like the cartoon companions, we chase seemingly satisfying illusions. Not only are they not real, but if we ever catch them, we’d reap only sorrow and guilt.

David found life that really matters is not fed by natural things. God is better than food, better than drink, better than sleep. He is the bread and water of life. He is our peace and our rest.

Jesus is a fountain springing up in the desert that enlivens the driest, most hopeless ground. When we drink deeply of living water, we can make the desert bloom.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Small Verse
The Lord is my shepherd, and nothing is wanting to me. In green pastures, He has settled me.

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 13 (Listen 4:33)
Psalms 62-63 (Listen 2:42)

Read more about Quotations from the Desert
Christ and the Israelites weren’t hungry in the desert for no reason. Nor are we.

Read more about Ready to Exit the Desert
May we leave sin and doubt in the desert, crossing the Jordan toward God’s calling to be his city on a hill.

Balaams and Balaks

Number 22.6
Now come and put a curse on these people, because they are too powerful for me. Perhaps then I will be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that whoever you bless is blessed, and whoever you curse is cursed.

Reflection: Balaams and Balaks
By John Tillman

Last week we celebrated the bravery of the prophet, Nathan, who confronted King David with his sins and described the terrible consequences that would be the result of the king’s actions.

This week’s readings begin with a very different prophet—one who could not be further from the ethical stance of Nathan—Balaam. Balaam is not concerned with whether what the king wants is right or moral. He does not care about reconciling men or nations to God as Nathan does. Balaam’s prophecies are for sale. But rather than allow Balaam to put words in his mouth, God puts his words in Balaam’s mouth.

God takes extreme measures. He causes Balaam’s donkey to speak to him to get his attention. Then, once Balaam sees the threatening, angel, God sternly warns Balaam to only say what God tells him to say. Although God speaks through Balaam, there is no relationship of love or trust—no expectation of good faith.

In the end, Balaam says what God commands. This could be because he is overwhelmed by the visions or because he is simply obeying out of fear of the angel who threatened him. Scripture does not tell us.

Perhaps the best lesson we can learn from Balaam is that there will always be prophets willing to buddy up to powerful, political leaders. These modern Balaams do their best to put words in God’s mouth that are pleasing to the powerful.

There are many political leaders today who are just like Balak. They want prophets of God to come to them, stand with them, worship with them, and bless their evil practices and desires. And there are many Balaams in the world today who claim to speak for God and yet seem willing to tickle the ears of the powerful in exchange for assurances of influence and power.

As God’s people, we can’t do much about the Balaams or the Balaks of the world. We must leave them up to God, for he is more than able to deal with them according to their sins.

Instead, we must simply keep serving our God and following him through our desert of sojourn. When the Balaams look down on us, may they be unable to deny the beauty of the love of God that is among us.

Prayer: The Call To Prayer
Let my mouth be full of your praise and your glory all the day long. — Psalm 71.8

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Numbers 22 (Listen – 5:55) 
Psalm 62-63 (Listen – 2:44)

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Mary’s powerful confession, prayer, and prophecy, shows her familiarity with the scriptures and an intimate connection with God like the prophets of old.

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